Monthly Archives: June 2014

Who killed Nelson Nutmeg?

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I don’t know, do you know?

Of course you don’t.

Do you want to know?

Well, probably not without some context. Let me elucidate …

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Tim Clague and Danny Stack are people. Specifically they’re people who write/direct/generally make things. They also host the monthly UK Scriptwriters’ Podcast which they deliver direct to your ears for absolutely nothing.

Nothing. Free.

They give you that.

For free.

For nothing.

Because they’re nice like that.

Or they have some secret agenda involving sterilising zebras, eradicating the genes responsible for toe hair and generally interfering with the natural order of things to leave them joint kings of the world.

Probably the first one though.

If you’re a UK scriptwriter and you don’t listen to the UK Scriptwriters’ Podcast, then you’re a fucking idiot.

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Or, you know, you just don’t bother/haven’t heard of it/haven’t got the time or have heard it and aren’t that interested.

Probably the second-delete-as-applicable-option in this case.

Whether you listen to the Podcast or not (I do, I like it. Despite them occasionally abusing me on air for no apparent reason other than apparently deserving it … which is apparently fair enough. I’d abuse me too if I wasn’t me. Which I am. Sadly.) is kind of irrelevant.

Much like most of this blog.

What is relevant is Danny and Tim are making a film and they’d like you to come along for the ride. They’re not demanding or wheedling or asking permission – they’re going anyway, you can come if you like.

Or not.

But as is so often the case in life, coming would be lovelier than not.

You may choose to read that as an innuendo if it makes you feel better.

Tim and Danny are two guys who give unceasingly to the scriptwriting community. Their blogs http:///www.dannystack.com/blog and http://www.projectorfilms.blogspot.com/ are two of the longest running in the blogosphere and packed to the … well, not rafters, um … edges? with helpful and friendly info and advice. Those too are delivered to your eyes for free.

They give and they keep on giving, for they are nice guys.

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Well, I think they are, anyway. They certainly seem to be whenever we’ve met. I like them. We’re almost friends.

Almost.

Internet friends, as Tim has pointed out. On air (on pod?). To everyone who cares to listen. Which I assume means “we can be friends so long as we don’t have to actually interact in any meaningful way” or “no, you can’t come round my house. Ever”.

Which is fair enough. I am ginger (ish).

Anyway, the point is they’re making this film: Who Killed Nelson Nutmeg? and they’d quite like you to join in. They’re doing it anyway, but if you want to give them something back for all the stuff they’ve selflessly given to you, then now’s your chance.

“How can I do this fabulous thing?” you are, doubtlessly, yelling at your electronic blog-reading device. Well, it’s simple, you can go to Kickstarter, to a page which is remarkably similar to this one. So similar, it is this one, in fact. Simply go there and pledge some money. Only a little bit, if you like.

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Or a lot. You could always pledge a lot.

But you don’t have to. Every pound is accepted with grace and humility and much appreciation.

I assume.

To be honest, they may sneer at your gullibility and immediately spunk it all on fags and wicker-prostitutes (which are all the rage round the intelligentsia of Dorset), I don’t know for I am not them.

Seems unlikely though. I’ve had noodles with Danny and it was extremely delightful.

You may choose to read that as an euphemism if it makes you feel better.

I’ve not had noodles with Tim, but he did once offer me some sage advice:

“If you’re ever at a screenwriting event, sitting next to someone influential who’s giving advice … just nod sagely. Not as if you’re agreeing, but as if they’ve got it right. Well done them.”

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I think that’s what he said, anyway. I might have imagined it.

(I didn’t imagine it, he did say it. He said it about Armando Iannucci in Cheltenham. I’m just pretending to be vague in case he doesn’t want people to know he said it … but he did! He fucking did!)

Sounds like something he’d say.

(Because he did say it!)

It’s good advice anyway.

Free advice too.

It cost me nothing.

Just like all the other free advice they give to you all the time. For free.

So if you, like me, want to know Who Killed Nelson Nutmeg? then you, like me, can go to their Kickstarter page and give, like me, some small pittance towards helping them get their film made.

They’re doing it anyway, why not join them on the ride? And nod sagely at them from the sidelines:

“Yes. Yes, good. Uh-huh. Well done, that’s exactly right.”

 

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Categories: Someone Else's Way | 3 Comments

Too much too soon

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I’ve lost a few jobs over the years by being too keen, by doing more work than is required; which probably sounds counter-intuitive, but actually makes sense if you just fucking let me finish, alright? Stop fucking interrupting!

What’s that?

No one’s interrupting except the voices in my head?

Oh really? What the fuck would you know, Mr Sock? You’re just a fucking sock, you’re not real. It’s me doing your voice. Me! Without me, you’re nothing!

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What’s that, Mr Sock?

If I’m going to have a mental spasm I should stop typing until after I’ve had a little lie down?

Oh. Yes, right.

Um … I didn’t type all this, it was dictation software left running. Sorry.

What’s that, Mr Sock? I’m a fucking liar?

Fuck you, you woolly bastard.

Sorry, got distracted there.

Right. So. Where was I? Ah yes, making sense.

The scenario usually runs something like this:

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A producer/director/actor or some combination of all three gets in touch regarding a film project they have which doesn’t really exist. I mean, it sort of does. They want to make something, they have some money of some description and possibly even a track record. The project exists in potentia, but in reality all they have is the vague feeling they want to make a film of some kind. Any kind, maybe, they’re not really sure.

What they are sure about is they absolutely have to film it only on Tuesdays and (for finance purposes) it all has to be set in Pease Pottage … although, for tax purposes it actually has to be filmed in Antigua; but they can easily fake Pease Pottage in Antigua, they just have to digitally erase the palm trees. And the climate.

Pease Pottage Honest

 

It also has to be a genre film (although not horror, sci-fi, western, a rom-com, martial arts, action, thriller or comedy – although it has to be funny), feature at least three parts for actors over-fifty who refuse to play characters over thirty, a dog, lots of nudity (but not from any of the actors, male or female), a Lamborghini (which can’t be driven), at least one sword fight and show child-abuse in a positive light.

Other than that, it’s completely up to me. I can do whatever I want, what have I got?

Besides a fucking migraine.

Oh, and they absolutely have to have a final draft before the end of the month or they’re going to lose the big name stars.

The ones I’ve never heard of.

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I know, I know, I should learn my lesson and walk away from these things. And to be fair, I am doing so more and more.

What has tended to happen in the past is in order to make the ludicrous deadline, I need to start working before the contract arrives … which I do, because I’m a trusting soul.

Never, ever trust anyone. That’s a lesson to learn right there.

So I beaver away, come up with a bunch of ideas, talk it over with them, incorporate their feedback into the plot and generally hash it out until we (amazingly) have something they like the sound of.

Even if I have (accidentally) forgotten the child-abuse.

Now they need a one-page synopsis.

That’s all, just one page.

Contract still hasn’t arrived, but that’s fine. It’s only one page after all … but they need it immediately. By nine the next morning.

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Okay, so I should claim I need the contract the next morning too. That’s exactly what I should do and am doing from now on; but on several occasions, I’ve been more trusting … like the fucking fool that I am.

Just one page.

Except it’s not one page, because the idea has to be so convoluted to match the laundry list of conditions that I have to plan it all out on index cards before I can condense it down to one page. Then I find I need to write it all out to make sure it makes sense, because I’m not sure it does.

After staying up ALL FUCKING NIGHT I have a ten page document which is EXACTLY what we’ve agreed on. The deadline is in four minutes, I just don’t have time to whittle it down to one page … so, fuck it. Sorry about this, guys; but I’ve skipped a step – this is where we’re heading anyway and since you don’t need the one pager to show the financiers or the actors, just as a document for us to discuss, then it’s possibly actually better this way.

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Except it isn’t.

Because, although this document features everything they wanted and everything we’ve already discussed and agreed on … it isn’t actually what they want. It isn’t what they want because they have no fucking idea what they actually want.

They haven’t got an idea for a film, the only idea they’ve got is that they want to make a film.

It’s a bit like someone asking you to paint their kitchen, only they’ve no idea what colour they want. All they know is they’d like something dark-ish. Or light-ish. Or something in-between. Maybe a primary colour? Or one of those colours you get when you mix primary colours together? One of those.

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So you pick a random colour. Blue, what about blue? Oh, they love blue! What shade? You discuss it, show them samples, suggest they look at other people’s kitchens which are the same colour … until they state, adamantly, that they want a specific shade.

Great.

So you paint their kitchen … and they don’t like it. They didn’t realise that was what blue was. They thought blue was more redish yellow. They didn’t realise I meant blue blue, even though that’s what they said they wanted.

They don’t say this right away, of course. First off they forget to look at the colour of the kitchen for three months because although it was vitally important you stay up all night painting it, they don’t actually need to look at the colour for ages yet. There’s no rush for them, just you.

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The second reason they don’t say this right away is because they decide not to bother saying it at all. The fact you’ve painted the kitchen the wrong colour clearly means you’re not the right painter for them, even though you’ve painted the kitchen the colour they asked for and not got anything on any of the woodwork and even managed to do that fiddly bit across the top of the boiler without spilling a single drop … despite doing a good job, the job they asked for, the fact you’ve painted it a colour which, on reflection, they don’t actually like, means you’re clearly not suited to this job … oh, and hey! Since they haven’t got round to sending the contract yet, they don’t actually need to pay you! They can get someone else to paint the kitchen another colour. Or better yet, just give up on the whole idea because they’ve lost interest in kitchens and might just get the bathroom painted instead. No need to tell the painter what they think of the colour, let’s just pretend he doesn’t exist.

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What’s that Mr Sock? I’ve stretched that metaphor well past the point of being useful? Why yes, I do believe you’re right.

No, you can’t come out of the hamper.

Because I don’t like you, you insufferably smug git. Get back in your hamper. Back! Back in your hamper!

Essentially, instead of developing the idea to suit the (pretend) film they think they’re going to make, they just give up and cease all communication.

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Maybe if I’d delivered a one-pager it would have been different? Maybe if it was a bite-sized idea they would be more inclined to pass comment and work towards something better? There’s a lot less information in a one-pager which is therefore easier to interpret in a way which makes sense to them. A ten-pager nails down characters and tone and theme and all those sort of things. There’s very little room for interpretation in a ten-pager. A one-pager can be anything.

It also feels easier to change, to discuss, to develop. A ten-pager? Well, it’s all decided now, isn’t it? It’s not what they want, so no point pursuing it. They don’t know what they do want, but they know it’s not this.

And because they didn’t have a strong investment in a specific idea in the first place, just some money and some free time, then they’ve no real interest in continuing. A bump in the road? Might as well just give up then. No, don’t bother telling the writer we’ve decided not to bother – he’ll work it out in a few months time when we haven’t replied to a single email, phone call or text.

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This has happened to me a couple of times now. Apparently it takes me a long time to learn a few simple lessons, namely:

  1. Never do more than is expected, no one will thank you for it.
  2. If the client is unclear what they want, keep ideas loose and vague for as long as possible – that way their expectations are being met.
  3. Don’t do anything until the contract is signed by you and them. Not that contracts actually guarantee you’ll get paid. I’ve worked on films where no one got paid, despite their contracts. Where everyone sued the producers, and won … and still didn’t get any money. Films where I was the only person to get even a fraction of my payment, despite not actually having a contract at all. Doesn’t hurt to wait though.
  4. Most importantly: never, ever get involved in these type of projects in the first place, it’s just not worth the hassle.

This all probably sounds very cynical, and in a way it is … but maybe that’s actually a good way to be?#

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Or maybe not?

I don’t know.

I would ask Mr Sock, but we’re not on speaking terms any more. Although his cousin, Ms Teatowel is here and she has this amazing idea for a movie. Well, not idea as such, more of a yen to make something, but that bloke from Eastenders has agreed to be in whatever it is, well, not agreed as such, but he muttered something which sounded a bit like yes when she cornered him in Tesco. Which bloke? Oh you know, the fat one who was always in the background of the market scenes in the first couple of years – never spoke, but he’s quite famous. Or was. She wants to shoot it in one location, in Arabic with Dutch subtitles and it has to feature at least three hamsters and …

Hang on, this is all sounding a little familiar.

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Categories: Bored, Career Path, Industry Musings, Random Witterings, Things I've Learnt Recently | 2 Comments

Conversations to quit over #1

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No, no, no, you’re just not getting this. They’re four friends.

Okay.

They’ve grown up together.

Got it.

And they all went to medical school together.

Right.

Now they’re all doctors.

All of them?

Yup. So they all use the same technical jargon.

And the same childhood slang?

Spot on. They use a shorthand only they can understand.

So … I guess they’re all from different ethnic backgrounds and–

No, no. They’re doctors, They’re all white middle-class men.

Pretty sure not all doctors are white. Or men.

These ones are. I’ve already cast them.

Ah. Who’ve you cast?

I’m not telling you, they haven’t confirmed yet.

I see. So you haven’t cast them.

I have! They just haven’t agreed yet. They all said they will do it, but each one wants to be the hero, so they’ve all got to be cool and wry and clever and … well, just awesome. Alpha males.

I’m not sure you can have four Alpha Males in one group.

Just write it and we’ll divide up the roles afterwards. Make them all the kind of guy you’d want to hang out with. Harrison Ford. Make them all like Harrison Ford.

All of them. Four Harrison Fords in one room.

Yes! Just do that!

Can I make one angry Harrison Ford and one–

No, these guys don’t get angry. They’re doctors! They’re intelligent, educated men who always know what … um … word things to say and never stop being …

Harrison Ford?

Yes! I need the first draft in five days.

FIVE DAYS AND ONE TERRIBLE DRAFT LATER:

This is a terrible script – all these characters sound the same. I should be able to cover up the character names and–

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Categories: Bored | 1 Comment

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